Today’s sermon at The Donelson Fellowship is from Psalm 23:4, where we find the name of an intriguing slice of geography – The Valley of the Shadow of Death. Think about that title. It is not the Valley of Death — not Death Valley. There’s a Death Valley in California, but not in Psalm 23. In biblical geography, there’s only the valley of the shadow of death.
There’s a lot of difference between an object and its shadow. Sure, there are some similarities, but the differences are greater than the comparisons.
Let me give you an example. Last year when Joshua Rowe and I went to Italy, we traveled everywhere by train. We stood waiting on the platform many times. Sometimes as the train approached the station, it would slow down. I’d be hit by the shadow of a train traveling at 5 or 10 miles an hour, but I was never hurt. Sometimes we’d see a train coming, and it wouldn’t stop at our station. It was an express train, and it whizzed by much faster. I’d be hit by a shadow going 100 miles an hour, but I didn’t suffer any injuries.
Once while traveling in Japan I was hit by the shadow of a bullet train traveling 300 miles an hour. Now, you’d think I might have been hurt, and I’ll have to say it was a little frightening — the roar and the power and the wind and the sound of it all. But I was untouched. No broken bones. No cuts or bruises. It’s remarkable to think about. A human being—even a child—can be hit head-on by a shadow going hundreds of miles an hour, and not suffer the slightest bruise.
Jesus was hit by the freight train of God’s wrath for sin as He hung on the cross. He endured the collision; He died from His injuries; He took the blow full force. Consequently, we only have to deal with the shadow.
There’s no such thing as death for the Christian. There is only the shadow of death. We don’t experience death; we experience its shadow, for Christ endured the real thing at Calvary—and rose again! And that’s why the valley between the green pastures and the Father’s House is simply the Valley of the Shadow of Death.